Traditional Home magazine sat down with Suzanne Kasler to talk about her decorating style.
I love the new additions to your Directoire collection. It makes me yearn for a summer holiday in France. Can you tell me a little about the inspiration behind the collection?
I went to France with the Ballard team and we shopped a number of flea markets—Porte de Vanves in Paris, Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, Les Arceaux in Montpellier. We came back with hundreds of photographs of Directoire details that inspired the collection. As designers, it’s such fun to take these classic details and put them in a different context; to translate them into a larger collection.
Flea markets are such an inspiration to designers. I love the randomness and how every collector’s stall has its own personality. And it was so great to rummage through the markets with the Ballard team. At the end of the day, we would talk about what we’d seen and share ideas. It was very inspiring.
Do you have favorite pieces in the collection?
That’s so hard to say! What I love about working with Ballard Designs is that as we come up with product ideas, the Ballard team makes prototypes. We go back and forth and tweak the details until we know the final product is right. That’s the success of this collaboration.
I can truly say that I love every piece. We try not to have huge collections but, rather, edited collections of things we really love.
You’ve introduced some new accessories this spring. Can you elaborate on the power of incorporating well thought out accessories?
Outdoor living has become such an integral part of how people live today. Our outdoor “rooms” are as important as our interior spaces, so layers are important. I like to incorporate accessories—like the overscaled lanterns and the terra cotta candle pots—that you can use indoors or out. They can really bring an outdoor “room” alive.
Scale is important in outdoor spaces. I like to use larger-scale pieces, like the wooden bowl and the baskets you see here. They are multipurpose and can be used to store or display so many different things—wine, food, flowers, books. And the textures—wood, iron, and water hyacinth—tie in with the outdoors as well.
I’ve seen some really fabulous sunburst mirrors this spring. You’ve often used them in interiors. What do you think gives them such timeless appeal?
I think the appeal is that they feel traditional and modern at the same time. I’ve used them in traditional interiors, but they really work in any space. They’re modern, vintage, or traditional depending on how you use them. And they’re versatile. You can hang them off center, in a group, or on their own. They really finish any space.
You use classic forms and patterns—stripes, Greek key motifs, quatrefoils—that give the line a timeless yet updated feel. Can you tell us a little about how traditional elements can be given new life and, in fact, update a space?
Color is extremely important. We introduced these great new colors—gray, orange, navy. The designs are classic, but there is a freshness to the color palette. We kept the main upholstery neutral, but updated the look with stripes in bold colors. It’s amazing how you can update the entire look of a space by changing out the draperies, pillows and rugs. You can get a new look every season and bring a fashion-like sensibility to your interiors.
You’ve often said, “A room should be collected, not decorated.” When creating furniture and accessories for Ballard, how do you ensure that new introductions can live comfortably with pieces from your previous collections, yet not look too matchy-matchy?
I started the collection with favorite elements that I’m always looking for when designing interiors, and we’ve built it from there. When we add new pieces, we ensure that there is continuity in the color palette and finishes so that everything really can work well together.
You’ve added some fun new colors this spring. Any advice on how to incorporate color in interiors without going overboard?
There’s no rule of thumb or set formula, but I use color strategically. If you overuse it, color loses its power. I think the main thing is to focus on the architecture of the space, start there and don’t overdo it.
You’re based in Atlanta, where outdoor living is a nearly year-round activity. Do you often entertain outdoors? What tips can you share on creating an inviting outdoor environment?
We’re lucky living in Atlanta, but no matter where my clients live—here or Colorado or the Northeast—they like the concept of having an outdoor space. They’ve become extensions of our interior living spaces, so it’s important that they flow together seamlessly.
The key thing is to make outdoor spaces comfortable and functional. That happens in the details. Ensure that you have enough lighting and seating, and that there are enough tabletops so that everyone has a place to put their drinks.
Outdoor decorating has definitely evolved over the past few years. We’re now demanding that our exterior spaces feel as inviting and decorated as our indoor rooms. What elements do you think are most important when creating an inviting outdoor space?
Lighting is incredibly important. But when incorporating candles or accessories, don’t skimp. Order a dozen, not just one or two. The space will look more polished and feel as if special attention has gone into creating a welcoming environment.
You’re known for creating elegant interiors that are still inviting and comfortable. What’s the trick to designing a space that feels tailored yet layered, sophisticated yet comfortable?
Comfort is key. You want a space to look great yet still be livable. Start with comfortable furniture and then layer in tables, lighting, blankets, baskets for magazines. It’s great to be able to tuck things away. The biggest challenge is not to over decorate. Learning to edit is important.